Monday, May 10, 2010

That First Taste

One taste. One taste and you'll know whether or not motorcycles are really for you. The first time you swing a leg over the seat, grab the bars and feel the motor thrumming underneath you, the first time you realize how loud any motorcycle is compared to the stifling cocoon inside any car produced more recently than 1967. The first time you feel the clutch catch and the bike moves and you'd better damn well hang on because it'll be just as happy to leave without you.

One taste is enough to know if motorcycles are really for you. You'll know if you really want to keep hanging on, and make the machine do your bidding. Motorcycles are not tame, like cars, those sleepy dogs that will gladly wait for you to get your act together and protect you whether you deserve it or not. Motorcycles will not forgive stupidity. A motorcycle will be happy to pitch you off and leak petroleum products all over you if you don't have the grit to hang on until you reach whatever destination awaits you. A motorcycle will, at some point, bite you.

One taste will let you know if you're really cut out to ride.

There are those, I think, who fall in love with the idea of motorcycles. They've got one in their garage, probably on a battery tender, life support for a machine destined to moulder away unloved, hidden, and caged because its owner didn't pay attention to that first taste.

But for some of us, that first taste touched something hidden. Something buried far away in the depths of our minds. Something locked up by so-called rationality, and the shrill warnings of authority figures we should have ignored in the first place. And when we felt that energy surge from the motor, through the handlebars, up our arms, arcing across the resistance of common sense and into our spirits, something primal broke free. It shook loose and took hold, told us that this motorcycle was the key to a freedom that cannot truly be explained, cannot be packaged, cannot be sold as much as the lizards in the marketing machine wish it could be. Because this is the freedom to set aside fear, to see risk, danger, death staring right at us, and to stare right back into that darkness and ask, "What have you got?"

And you can't leave the key to that freedom rotting in your musty garage. One taste is all you need to know if motorcycles are really your thing.

If that first taste is not good to you, listen to yourself. Find something else you groove to. Your own brand of freedom is out there, somewhere. Find it. Love it. And leave the motorcycles to those of us who can handle them, who want to handle them, who need to handle them.

And for those of you who had that first taste, and discovered you like it, if it left you craving more - I am sorry. Your family will think you've lost your mind. Friends and acquaintances will try to show you the error of your ways. People are going to worry about you. They're going to tell you about their friends or family who were bent into new and unexpected shapes by demon motorcycles. Some will be hostile. So you'll make new friends. Friends who understand. Friends who also found that first taste irresistible.

And you will lose some of them. Motorcycles do not forgive stupidity, or inattention, or a lack of control. And it does not matter who was stupid, inattentive or out of control. The squishiest person involved is the one who gets hurt.

It's a risk we're aware of, and I won't lie and tell you we don't fear death, or injury. But would you rather fear pain and death, or fear life?

Motorcycles are not for everyone. That first taste will let you know if motorcycles are really for you.